Worcester’s Matt Robert Blends Blues and Roots in Original Tunes
Monday, February 25, 2013
"All the kids in my neighborhood were also really into music, so sitting around listening to music was a common pastime even when we were pretty young," he says of his youth. "I remember my friend sleeping over when we were in grammar school and we stayed up late into the night listening to WBCN playing The Beatles A to Z."
Much of the music he was exposed to as a young child came thanks to his much older brother who often could be heard blasting Aerosmith, The Who, Santana and the Rolling Stones. For this reason he had a more mature taste in music than most at his age.
"In fact, for music class in fourth grade I brought in two of my favorite albums: Who's Next and Jethro Tull's Aqualung, and essentially got laughed out of class. The kids didn't really dig Ian Anderson's flute playing," he jokes.
Around this time also when he began forming an interest in not simply listening but playing and singing as well. He began singing cathedral choir in Worcester, where he fell in love with the sheer "fearsome power" of the choir, especially in powerful hymns like "Glory to God in the Highest." This idea of "fear" became rather important to him in exploration of different genres.
"Very early on I would sit in a dark room playing 'Sheherazade' on a little phono player and It scared the shit out of me, but I loved it," he says.
"Later, I would enjoy the same fear on scary Grateful Dead jams and Led Zeppelin, and The Beatles' 'Helter Skelter' or Pink Floyd's 'Echoes.'"
For when he performs himself, Roberts tackles a pretty broad range of styles, all of which center around the blues, which is true of most modern music, especially, rock anyway. More specifically, he states,
"I would say that my favorite type of thing to sing is a lyric that has some throat or growl to it and/or a song that has a rich emotional content. I like singing poignant lyrics that give me a chill, either because they are open and confessional or frankly bleak."
Examples he gives include covers of Bob Dylan's "Visions of Johanna", Don Nix's "Like a Road Leading Home", the Grateful Dead's "Black Peter", and Modest Mouse's "Blame it on the Tetons", or an original like his own "Take Me There", which is written as an open letter to an artist friend of his who died a few years ago.
Though, he also enjoys performing songs that take the almost exact opposite. These include, among others, Ben Covington's "Adam and Eve in the Garden" and the folk classic "Boll Weevil", and his very own peculiar "Jesus in my Amplifier" and "Gonna Go out Tonight."
"I've dabbled in all kinds of stuff, and picked up some ideas from each phase", says Roberts. " my sets can ramble through a range of material in a couple of hours, depending on where my head is at any given point. Usually I'll plan out an opener or two and then just hope that a thread emerges that will carry me from song to song and wind up wherever it may."
For most of his thirty years of performing, Roberts has been part of a band, only going predominantly solo in the past year or so. His last band Hat On, Drinking Wine, released two CDs, one in 2009 and the other 2012. Right now he is working on recording songs at Riverview Studios in Waltham with friends from the band Comanchero, Sam Margolis and Andrew Kramer. He hopes to release a six-song EP this spring.
Right now, you can see Matt Robert perform at his weekly gig at NU Cafe. Or see if he is making any return appearances at Ralph's, Beatnik's, Tammany, Vincent's, Nick's, Beatnik's, or McGann's in Boston.
He talks of his humble future ambitions.
"I don't have any specific goals, like touring or getting famous. I'm not sure there's a big market for a quirky old guy plunking out oddball tunes. I'd be happy if I could keep writing, recording and finding venues at which to perform. I hope that I can maintain an audience who finds what I do palatable or even interesting."
To find out more about Matt Robert find him on Facebook or Reverbnation.
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